Slow Down! Slooowww Down!

“Slow Down! Slooowww Down! Re-enter the pit slowly and come to a complete stop.”

We are just returning from our annual week at the beach.  While there, we took the kids to drive go-carts and when it was time to return to the pits, we heard the above automated statement repeatedly.  So much so that the kids are still repeating it days later.

Now that the statement is ingrained in my memory, I thought it was an appropriate metaphor for life.  Previously, I have written about the fact that my kiddos are moving on to middle school and high school in a couple of weeks.  I’m all too familiar with time passing very quickly.  And while I am always excited and hopeful about the possibilities the future holds for the kids, I’m also very cognizant of the fact that time is not slowing down.  And our society as a whole is on the fast track.  We are always trying to get to that next best thing. . .faster.

So, today, I’m challenging myself and you, to take a moment to slow down.  In whatever way that means to you.


Last Time for Everything

“Throwing the ball with the first dog you ever had
Spending all day on the lake with your grandad
Watching Glenn Frey sing “Already Gone” at the Forum in LA
There’s a last time for everything”

~Brad Paisley, “Last Time for Everything”


On Friday, I went with Chloe to “Muffins with Mom.”  As I was driving away from the school, I realized this was our last “Muffins with Mom” event and her elementary years are quickly coming to an end.  She is moving on to middle school next year.  In a few short weeks, my baby girl is leaving her fifth grade year behind.  And Clark is moving on to high school, leaving his middle school years behind.  I’m not sure how the years have passed by so quickly, but they have.

I am painfully aware that every day has a potential to be a “last time” day.  I no longer remember the earlier years, the last time that the kids called me Mommy and began calling me Mom, or the last time they rode a tricycle and took off on their bikes.  With each passing day, we have a “last time” moment.  And I am doing everything I can to enjoy each day with my children because I never know when it might be the “last time.” All too soon, my kiddos will no longer want to spent time with us as their friends become more important and they become increasingly more independent.  I love being their mom and I love the young adults that they are becoming.  I just want to savor each day with them, because I know all too soon these days will be a “last time” and they will be on to the next phase of their lives.




The Invasion of Normandy: Epic Battle of World War II by Moira Rose Donohue

The Invasion of Normandy is a fantastic nonfiction text appropriate for upper elementary and middle school readers.  Starting with the first line of the text, “The English Channel was choked with British and US warships,” Donohue shares the story of the invasion of Normandy with great description and word choice, including vivid verbs and sensory details.  The text is written in a way that makes it easy for 5th-8th graders to access the information.  This is the type of nonfiction I look for to share with children.  It is short and focused on the topic and is written in a “kid-friendly” way. You could pair this text with a more traditional, nonfiction text (text books, articles, etc.) about the invasion of Normandy, to give students a full, yet descriptive understanding of the topic.

©2017 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Interview with an Author: Megan Shull

My ten year old recently read two books by Megan Shull that she would love to recommend to you for the middle grade readers in your life.

After reading THE SWAP, she was delighted to find out that it premiered as a Disney Original Movie and in school, she had the opportunity to create her own commercial. Click on the screen shot to view it.


BOUNCE  takes place over the course of one day – Christmas Day, to be exact – but it’s not your typical 24-hour story. Frannie Hudson makes one desperate, crazy wish on Christmas Eve to be somewhere, anywhere else but with her busy and distracted family. And it works! When she wakes up, she’s dropped into someone else’s life, and it’s wonderful.  There’s only one catch: waking up as someone else keeps happening over and over again.  A celebration of the power of love and connection, Megan Shull’s heartfelt new novel combines the humor of the movie GROUNDHOG DAY with her own signature insight and proves that while we may not get to choose the life we’re given, we absolutely get to decide how we live it (publisher’s review).

BOUNCE is the ideal gift for the holiday season – full of fantastic adventures but woven with a heartfelt message that will stick with readers.

After she read BOUNCE, she had an opportunity to host a Q&A with Megan:

  1. What inspired you to create/write these/your books?

My goal always as I write is for my readers to want to keep the book close, or tuck it under their pillow because the protagonist’s journey somehow helps them (the reader) feel seen, safe, soothed, and—as with my new novel, Bounce—more resilient, and more capable of bouncing back after falling. So, I am always super honored if a reader tells me that one of my books just made them “feel good”—that’s for sure what I’m hoping for.

  1. As a kid, or even as an adult, have you ever wanted to swap lives like Ellie and Jack, or “bounce” into a different one like Frannie? 

Hmmmm. I haven’t wished for a body swap! To me Bounce is more about Frannie really needing to connect with people who can help her navigate her own quite reasonable painful emotions. Through the power of care and connection (from the bounces and the people she meets along the way) and feeling seen and soothed and safe in her body and her mind, she’s able to learn to take care of herself and feel a little bit less afraid and more capable of handling her life—which hasn’t really changed . . . but as you know, Chloe . . . she has!  The Swap and Bounce both have that piece in common which is really learning how to be more yourself by being—for just a little while—someone else.

  1. Did you have a dream to be an author when you were a kid? 

I did not. I wouldn’t have guessed it at all! On that note: I love this sweet, wise sentiment by the poet Mary Oliver—“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.”

  1. When did you start writing books?

I started writing my first book after earning my doctorate at Cornell.

  1. Do you have any other hobbies? 

I love being outside. The town I grew up in (and still live in today) is stunningly beautiful and teeming with waterfalls, gorges, and secret swimming holes. I had the privilege of having a very outdoorsy childhood and that joy and freedom of exploring independently and being inspired by the sheer physical beauty that surrounds you that (in Bounce) Frannie experiences as Sky, well, I know that feeling and I love that feeling too.

Megan Shull is the award-winning author of five books for kids, including The Swap, now a Disney Channel Original Movie and, Bounce. Megan holds a doctorate in educational psychology from Cornell University, where she also earned her undergraduate degree. Born and raised in Ithaca, New York, Megan lives and writes in her hometown—a small college town surrounded by waterfalls, quiet, rolling hills, and secret swimming holes. 

©2016 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday

I decided to link up to Allyson Beecher’s Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday at Kid Lit Frenzy today.  I’m going to try to do this throughout the year.

Two nonfiction picture books I read this week are below.  Both of these are excellent picture book biography mentor texts.

Earmuffs for Everyone

I shared a lesson idea on a way to use Earmuffs for Everyone in the classroom at Picture This! Teaching with Picture Books today.

Mr Ferris and His Wheel Mr. Ferris and His Wheel is another picture book biography mentor text that could be used in the classroom.

Making Connections, Building Relationships

image“If you were going to let yourself be connected to people, you had to be willing to take chances.”The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holczer

As I reflect on my reading of The Secret Hum of a Daisy, I can’t help but think about what the book signifies to me.  Relationships.  Sure, it’s about love and loss, but ultimately, I found that at the heart of the book was Grace and her relationships with those in her life.  One friendship was changing as another was blooming.  She had to learn to trust a grandmother she had never met before.  Cycles.  Trust.  Change.  Relationships.  We have all of this in our own lives and that is why I could relate to The Secret Hum of a Daisy.  The foundation of human connection – relationships.

I think about how important it is for us to build relationships in schools.  With our students and our colleagues.

Grace had a teacher who believed in her, Mrs. Snickels.  I think back to my teachers.  Two stand out.  Lisa Baar and Terese Rushford, though they were Ms. Bayse and Ms. Dukelow that year.  These two women were my fifth grade teachers and were pivotal in my development, not just academic, but social-emotional as well.  See, my parents separated when I was in fifth grade and these two women took me under their wings.  They believed in me, they took me out to dinner to celebrate my academic achievements, they took me strawberry picking, and most importantly they just listened.  They cared.  Years later, after my parents divorced and I was about to enter high school, my mom decided to move us out of state.  I was not happy about it to say the least, but Lisa was right there offering me a place in her home for the summer to help her with her children, but also as a member of the family. A way for me to transition to the new change in my life.  Cycles.  Trust.  Change.  Relationships.

When I became a teacher, I worked to build relationships with my students as well.  I worked to get to know my studets as individuals, their likes, their dislikes, their personal achievements.  I made personal connections with several students.  Several years ago, my former student Molly babysat for me. Just as I had for Lisa.  Just this past week, I ran into the grandmother of one of my former students.  Andrew was full of energy and traditional school expectations didn’t seem to work for him, even through high school.  But, in college, he bloomed.  She filled me in on all of his achievements since he was in my fourth grade class – my first year of teaching! He is now a sports journalist and works for Auburn University.  I’m so proud!  Cycles. Trust. Change.  Relationships.

Last year, I took a position as a staff development teacher.  My role is to support the teachers, but I also work closely with the principal, our instructional leader. I worked very hard last year (and continue to) to build relationships with my colleagues.  Not only was I new to the position, but I was new to the school, an established staff of committed teachers.  Our staff is committed to our students and to each other.  Cycles.  Trust.  Change.  Relationships.

As we begin this new calendar year, I strive to continue to build relationships with all in my life.  My colleagues, our students, my family, and my friends.  We all want to feel a connection to someone.

The foundation of human connection – relationships.